Former President Donald Trump’s campaign is quietly weighing options for how to reshuffle the Republican National Committee if, as expected, he becomes the GOP nominee — including options that both include and exclude the current chairwoman, Ronna McDaniel.
Two sources familiar with the planning, including a Trump adviser, told NBC News that Trump’s political organization is considering a plan that would essentially set up two separate organizations: It would leave McDaniel as chairwoman, but she would essentially be a sort of figurehead. Meanwhile staffers closely aligned with Trump would also be installed and have significant power over party operations.
Under the plan, two Trump-picked co-chairs would be put in place — one to oversee fundraising and the other to oversee party operations. One of the sources named former RNC Chairman Reince Preibus, former Trump administration official and major GOP donor Linda McMahon and casino magnate Steve Wynn, as possibilities to run the fundraising side, while both sources said the operational side is almost certainly to be led by top Trump adviser Chris LaCivita.
“He is a Washington person. I think he likes that,” a Trump adviser said of LaCivita.
Under this proposal, McDaniel would technically remain in her position as chairwoman, but she would have to clear nearly all of her major decisions with the Trump appointees.
“They’ve merged the DNA of the president’s campaign and the RNC,” starting from 2016, a GOP operative said. The person added that the reason LaCivita is involved “is to preserve the status quo of the arrangement.”
LaCivita did not return a request for comment.
The other option still on the table is McDaniel resigning, which would force a hectic and high-profile special election requiring all 168 voting members from across the country to get in the same room to pick a new chair.
The New York Times reported Tuesday night that McDaniel told Trump she is planning to resign from her post shortly after the South Carolina primary on Feb. 24. NBC News has not confirmed this report.
“Nothing has changed. This will be decided after South Carolina,” RNC spokesperson Keith Schipper told NBC News.
Trump, like any presidential nominee, cannot technically fire the RNC chair. But he has already made clear he is looking for change at the top, putting more pressure on McDaniel.
“The main question in the next couple of weeks is going to be, does Ronna stay and get layered over, or does she resign completely?” the Trump adviser said. “Once they [Trump and the campaign] makes that decision, we are going to start to see movement.”
A Trump ally also said the former president has often preferred schemes that would, in the end, spare people.
“The best kept secret with Trump is that he doesn’t actually like to fire people,” a Trump ally said.
“The majority of the RNC voting members are not fond of Ronna, but they’ll do what the president asks,” one GOP operative said. “So if the president is saying stick with her, they will stick with her. If he says I have no confidence in her in her anymore and she needs to go, and an individual is put forward that is OK with him and OK with the campaign, they will vote yes to remove her and install this new person.”
McDaniel’s role at the RNC has been under a searing spotlight in recent weeks amid the party’s financial woes and a continued chorus of criticism from some RNC members who lay blame for any perceived party problem at her feet.
Most notably, her biggest opponents within the party blame her for poor showings by the GOP in national election cycles since 2016, and for the party finishing 2023 with just $8 million in the bank, compared to $21 million for the Democratic National Committee.
Those fault lines were on display in Las Vegas last week where Turning Point USA, an influential conservative group led by vocal McDaniel critic Charlie Kirk, held its own event to air grievances about McDaniel’s performance. The group, which met just days before the RNC winter meetings in the same city, has been the largest organization to rally around the idea of ousting McDaniel — although anti-McDaniel sentiment has also gained some traction with the RNC’s ranks.
Members-only RNC meetings have, at times, become venues for McDaniel critics to address her face-to-face, which happened again during a members-only breakfast last week at the Paris Hotel and Casino, according to two sources who were in the room.
During the meeting, some members led by Kansas GOP Chair Mike Brown pushed for McDaniel to release her RNC credit card statements as a show of financial transparency related to party spending.
During the 2022 leadership fight, McDaniel faced negative stories about RNC spending, prompting Trump’s top campaign aide Susie Wiles to defend her.
“There was real tension between several members and Chair McDaniel,” a member in the room, who commented on the condition of anonymity to speak frankly, said. “Words were exchanged and frustrations were high. It’s clear that a group wants some change with the RNC, and the current chair is unwilling to understand the concerns of some of her members.”
Brown did not return a request seeking comment.
McDaniel defended herself, but few of her supporters in the room backed her up, another RNC member at the breakfast told NBC News.
“It got intense at moments,” the second member said. “Was an interesting way to start the weekend.”
McDaniel easily won re-election to her fourth term in January 2023, and continues to have a significant base of support among the party’s members.
“I am not going to get into what happens in members-only meetings,” a McDaniel supporter said of last week’s breakfast. “But I will say that Ronna McDaniel will go down in history as having been the best grassroots chair the party has had. She has raised a lot of money, she is very good at that.”
“Bidenomics have not been good for anyone. We all go grocery shopping and prices are up,” the supporter added. “When you are a small dollar donor [to the RNC], that’s the kind of thing that gets cut first.”
The person also lamented that high-profile fights over party leadership can be self-defeating and something Republicans have generally focused on most in recent years.
“Democrats do not do what we have done. Many probably don’t even know who the DNC chair is,” the person added. “Keeping that name out there is, unfortunately, how some people make their money.”
Trump, who handpicked McDaniel to run the party in 2016, has done nothing to quiet rumors of McDaniel’s potential demise in recent days. Over the weekend he said “some changes” would come to the RNC if he is the Republican nominee, and on Monday night, he acknowledged something is coming — but likely not until after the Feb. 24 South Carolina primary.
“Things are looking great in the Presidential Race of 2024 against Crooked Joe Biden,” Trump wrote Monday on Truth Social. “Ronna is now Head of the RNC, and I’ll be making a decision the day after the South Carolina Primary as to my recommendation for RNC Growth.”
Amplifying the palace intrigue around whether McDaniel’s days are numbered as RNC chair was a meeting she held with Trump on Monday night at Mar-a-Lago, a meeting that, set against the party’s leadership drama, immediately stirred speculation that Trump had summoned McDaniel to discuss her future, or lack thereof, as party chairwoman.
The two Trump allies familiar with the former president’s thinking downplayed the idea that the meeting was a signal that McDaniel is out or that a shakeup was imminent.
“It was a rescheduled meeting from before. Was nothing super major,” said one. “I think it [some changes] will be after South Carolina, but no one really knows for sure.”
The person said McDaniel “could still very much have a place” at the RNC, but there would just be others with leadership responsibilities.
“No one knows exactly what is on his [Trump’s] mind,” they added. “We will have to wait and see.”
This article was originally published on NBCNews.com